In my previous post, I explored Asia’s obsession with skin and explained how their beauty culture differs from the West. In addition to giving preference towards skin care over makeup, the typical Asian skin care regimen includes layering multiple products onto the skin. I’ve broken down each step of the process into a ‘Night’ regimen and a ‘Day’ regimen. The general rule of thumb is to apply products in the order of thickness, building from watery serums to thick creams.
Night– The “double cleanse” is a two-step method that really, truly removes all the gunk from your face. The first step, an oil based cleanser, melts off makeup- including waterproof mascaras and other hard-to-move items. The second step, a foaming cleanser, turns into a frothy “cushion” that gently removes dirt, oil, and other impurities without pulling on the skin. I approached oil cleansers cautiously, since my skin is pretty sensitive and acne-prone, but after incorporating oil cleansers into my routine for almost 5 months, have not experienced any problems.
Day– You wake up with significantly less dirt and gunk on your face (I hope), so there’s no need for a double cleanse in the morning.
- Oil Cleansers: She Uemara‘s cleansing oil is a cult favorite, but DHC’s version is equally good, and $40 cheaper. If you’d like an American brand, check out Sephora‘s cleansing oil.
- Foaming Cleansers: I fell in love with Sheseido’s Perfect Whip foam – it’s gentle on the skin, has a luxurious lather, and is incredibly cheap (around $3 in Japan, $9 on Amazon). If you prefer an American brand, I’ve also used the Origins Checks and Balances Frothy Face Wash and like that it’s available in a small travel size.
2. Lotion, Toner, and Milk
“Lotions” and “toners” are different from what we typically think of in the West, while the term “milk” may be completely new to you. What’s the difference? It’s hard to say, since each company tends to market their products a little differently, but in general the only difference is the color of the substance (milks are creamy in color, vs. lotions and toners, which are clear). Their purpose is to re-inject some of the moisture stripped during the cleansing process, return the skin to its natural pH level, and prepare the skin to “receive” serums and additional moisture. This is in contrast to Western style ‘toners’, which typically aim to remove any trace residue after washing.
- SK-II manufactures a high-end lotion that is quite popular. Kose makes a good mid-range option, while Shiseido and Skinfood have options that won’t break the bank (the Skinfood toner smells absolutely delightful). My personal favorite is the Hadalabo Hyaluronic Acid Lotion, which almost instantly disappears into the skin. The U.S. formulation can be found at Ulta.
3. Essence and/or Serum
Essences and serums are the true workhorses of Asian skin care. These are used to correct skin imperfections- from uneven skin tone, to excess oil, to clogged pores- if you can name a problem, chances are there’s an essence or serum for it.
- If I ever win the lottery, I’ll bathe myself in this Tatcha Deep Brightening serum. Until then, SK-II and Kose are worthwhile splurges, and Skinfood and Innisfree have great affordable options. Want an American brand? Try Mario Badescu’s Vitamin C Serum.
Almost there! I’m going to introduce another vocabulary term. Ready? Emulsion. It’s just a lightweight moisturizer, and it goes on before your second moisturizer (yep, two). At night, the emulsion is followed by either a sleeping pack or a sleeping mask, both of which serve to give your skin extra hydration while “locking in” all of the other wonderful goodness you just layered on. In the AM, an SPF protects the skin from the sun’s harmful rays. You’re putting sunscreen on every time you go outside right? Riiiight?
- Emulsion: I’ve used Hadanomy and Hadalabo‘s emulsions and loved both so much that I don’t have any other recommendations.
- Sleeping Packs/Masks: Laneige’s best-selling sleeping pack is available at Target (re-named in the U.S. as a sleeping mask) and it.is.divine. My skin looks plump and refreshed in the morning. Remember when I mentioned ‘cutting edge’ ingredients like snail excretion in my former post? I bought this Missha Snail Sleeping Mask last year, and can’t decide if I love it or the Laniege more.
- SPF: There are so many to choose from that it’s really just a matter of personal preference, but Hera’s SPF (from the Amore Pacific makers) is a good place to start. My favorite SPF is by French makers La Roche Posay, because it leaves my skin matte while letting it breathe, even in the summer.
But wait, we’re not finished! While steps 1-4 comprise the core of a daily skin routine, there are a few ‘extras’ that you can throw into the mix a few times a week.
Night: Sheet masks are soaked in essence or other treatment serums that you leave on your face for up to 20 minutes while you scare your fiance and dog. Use before your sleeping pack/mask and do not rinse. Scrubs and exfoliators help to remove dead skin and other impurities.
Day: We’ve all heard of BB and CC creams, so no need for me to elaborate. Mists are a great pick-me-up and can either be spritzed after cleansing or after makeup and periodically throughout the day to prevent slippage.
- Sheet masks: This is another one of those products where there are so many to try. I like the My Beauty Diary masks, as well as Lululun’s white and pink sheet masks. If you have more to spend, I’m curious to know how Shiseido’s White Lucent masks work.
- Scrub: Skinfood’s Black Sugar Mask is so boss that I use it on Darren’s hands when they start feeling like sandpaper. It also smells heavenly, which doesn’t hurt. Their Egg White Pore Mask also shrinks pores like none other.
- Exfoliator: You need to try Cure Natural Aqua Gel. It’s the top-selling exfoliator in Japan because it’s super gentle, yet highly effective. As you rub the gel on your face, it turns your dead skin cells into little white balls that bead off your face- SO COOL.
- BB/CC Cream: Missha makes a ton of BB and CC creams catered towards every type of skin. Many of the formulations come in a travel size which are great for traveling or if you’re not sure if you will like the product. Sephora also carries a few brands that originated from Asia including Dr. Jart, Amore Pacfic, and Boscia.
- Mist: I like Skinfood’s Vita-C Mist and also swear by the Evian Spray to-go